Today’s independent review from Sir Martin Narey is important for children in residential care, and for all those who care for them. In particular, we welcome the recommendation for ‘Staying Close’ rights for children leaving residential care, and the recognition of the Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign.
In committing to support this measure, the Department for Education will be making significant progress towards achieving our members’ manifesto priority of ensuring that all children in care have a safe and stable home until they’re 21, with support to 25.
More broadly, the report paints an authentic and well-evidenced picture of the key issues and challenges for residential care today, and makes many welcome recommendations. We believe that Sir Martin is right to seek to promote greater voluntary sector involvement in providing residential care, and to highlight that such an ambition will not be straightforward in current conditions.
The report highlights that one of the deep-rooted problems in ‘the marketplace’ has been a lack of strategic commissioning, over-reliance on framework contracting, and generally, too much focus on ‘shopping’ for placements, instead of commissioning good homes. A long term plan is needed for better commissioning for children in care, and while the recommended Leadership Board for Residential Care would certainly advance this cause, Children England believes the time is right to create a single strategic leadership board for all children in need of care and adoption (including fostering and kinship carers), rather than continuing with policy and market development in separate service-defined silos within the care system.
We are pleased to see the evidence and strength of messages in the report showing the commitments made by children’s homes not to ‘criminalise’ the children in their care, and charting significant changes in practice over recent years. We remain convinced that the most important way to prevent children from being drawn into the criminal justice system for behaviours that are really symptoms of their distress, is to raise the age of criminal responsibility, as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have urged us to do, yet again, only one month ago.
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